Cover The mezzanine lounge is designed as a tearoom that was loosely inspired by the Netflix period drama Bridgerton

This colourfully eclectic Singapore house by Design Intervention celebrates a sense of whimsy with elements inspired by the Netflix hit Bridgerton and the owners' travels

A whiff of that whimsical, Mary Poppins-esque spirit can be felt even from the entrance of this detached house in Singapore. Tasselled curtains frame the poolside area, where a pair of tropical-patterned armchairs holds court, topped with striped cushions that tease at other surprises to come. Step inside the home, and more wondrous sights follow: a delightful mélange of botanical patterns takes over the living room, while the colourful kitchen celebrates Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana’s vibrant universe.

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There is certainly much to catch the eye in this abode, crafted by Singapore-based interdisciplinary firm Design Intervention. In fact, the studio had designed the original house for their former colleague, senior designer Wendy Smith, just a few years ago. After Smith moved to South Africa earlier this year, the property was happily purchased by a Chinese family who was already admirers of the firm’s work; they hired Design Intervention to update the interiors to fit their needs.

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The owners are tech entrepreneurs who moved from China to Singapore. “This couple are truly global citizens, who own several homes around the world; they were used to travelling, so being locked into Singapore was especially hard,” says Nikki Hunt, founder of Design Intervention.

With a brief to create a house that would “represent an escape from the mundane”, the goal was to “transport (the owners) to faraway lands within their home”.The design team also took inspiration from the lady of house, who enjoys hosting afternoon tea sessions with friends and family. “As with all our work, the source of inspiration was the clients themselves, and the wife’s love of English-style afternoon teas became our starting point,” says Andrea Savage, co-CEO of the firm. “The wife is a gentle, soft-spoken lady who is artistic and creative. She wanted a home that would be impressive to her guests but not overtly glamorous, with a hint of whimsy and a sense of the unexpected.”

Due to time and manpower restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the couple decided to retain the existing flooring, which features modern, monochromatic motifs. The team also retained the Christian Lacroix wallpaper that was applied to the mezzanine area, as it has botanical nuances that fit the new home design.

The living room is deeply influenced by the English country house style. This aesthetic embraces an eclectic blend of the old and the new by combining rustic influences and vintage-style pieces with contemporary designs that keep the overall look fresh and modern.“What I love about the English country house style is that the homes evolve over time, and nothing quite matches but that is the point,” says Hunt. “The living room has a curated collection of independently sourced pieces, not all shiny and new, but worn and well-loved to create a space that is comforting and nurturing.” 

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This area incorporates vintage furnishings sourced from Italy and the UK, mixed with custom pieces that Design Intervention specially created to lend a lived-in look. These are peppered with playful references to scenes in the Disney film, Mary Poppins, as well as its titular character. “We took what I call a Mary Poppins approach to the room,” explains Hunt. “There is a scene in the Disney classic where Mary jumps into a painting, and we wanted the mural to come to life. We curated our furniture and accessory choices so they seem to be one with our wallpaper for a truly immersive design theme that transports you to another time and place.”

An exuberant array of floral wallcoverings and upholstery fabrics bring a garden-like ambience into the living room, while celebrating the leisurely ritual of the English-style afternoon tea. The mezzanine level, which serves as a dedicated tearoom, follows a similar botanical theme while playfully carrying cadences of the settings from Netflix period drama Bridgerton

“We were all working from home during the design process, and I think a longing for the outdoors is reflected in our concept; you can probably tell that both Nikki and I had watched Bridgerton during the lockdown,” quips Savage. “Our colours and motifs are fun and uplifting. There is nothing serious in the design. It is whimsical and romantic.”

In this tearoom, a pair of silk lampshades floats overhead, and a round Turkish rug with paisley motifs in muted tones completes the English-influenced look. Similarly, the master bedroom embraces the botanical theme with equal gusto; its stylish blend of floral and scenic landscape wallcoverings transporting the homeowners to distant lands.

The master bathroom is as playfully designed. It features a shower area with a decorative frame that takes a cue from ornate bird cages, adding an element of fantasy to the space. “This is a bathroom designed to wash the woes away, and not only the dust of the day. It is an experience, not just a bathroom,” says Hunt. “The birdcage-inspired design is so fun that I would like to think no one could feel grumpy after emerging from that shower!”

For the other parts of the house, the team looked to the sunny beaches of the Mediterranean, along with the desert tents and souks of Morocco for inspiration. In the kitchen, where the Mediterranean influences of Dolce & Gabbana’s signature style dominate, brighter colours were selected for the furnishings to create a lively and sociable atmosphere. “In the kitchen, we have moved away from England and visited Italy; our starting point was a silk Dolce & Gabbana scarf,” says Hunt. “We wanted to create the feeling of a breezy Italian summer holiday full of long, carefree days, and a sense of fun and an abundance of sun!”

Adds Savage: “It was harder moving from a softer-hued English garden theme to a vibrant Italian one. But by incorporating some red elements into the main entertaining space (in the living room) and continuing those into the kitchen, we were able to provide a visual link that ensures a sense of cohesion.”

African influences create lively settings in the other rooms upstairs. The nursery and its open-plan ensuite bathroom is one such space. “For the nursery, we travel to Africa—we found a deliciously vibrant wallpaper from Pierre Frey which became the starting point of the design,” says Hunt. “We applied a Venetian plaster finish over the old bathroom tiles and replaced the fixtures to give the room a fresh new look.”

The spacious attic is another wondrous area that features a Moroccan-influenced theme. It boasts a tent-like setting, with off-white fabrics covering the walls and ceiling that billow in the wind. Earthy tones on the wooden furnishings hark to the Saharan dunes and desert life. “We had fun pottering around Singapore’s Arab Street in search of inspiration,” says Savage. “The tented room is actually the client’s favourite space!”

While their sources of inspiration may seem disparate, the team used a cohesive palette of pastel tones to skilfully combine these influences and craft an inviting house that encourages the owners and guests to be in a holiday mood, even while staying indoors in Singapore. “The client had requested for a different theme in each area, and the open-plan layout did indeed present a challenge,” says Hunt. “We chose pastel colours that work together so even as we move from England to Morocco, the transition is a gentle one.”

Everything fell neatly into place despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, and the family managed to move into their new home soon after they arrived in Singapore. Adds Savage: “It was quite a challenge to change the house to reflect the personality of the new owner without removing such a stark and striking floor design, but the design came together beautifully. It all just worked!”

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